The words spoken by Moses to the children of Israel in the wilderness, are really prophetic of God's people in every age : "Happy art thou, O Israel : who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord." God expects His people to be happy. The gospel itself is good news, and good news always makes folk happy. Israel was a people saved by the Lord, and they had a right to reveal to those around them the joy of that experience.
When the Pharisees took stock that the disciples had been with Jesus, it was perhaps not so much the clear logic of their thinking, but rather the happiness of their dispositions, that made the disciples a contrast to the crowds around them. Jesus had come to give them life, yes, life more abundantly, and the Holy Spirit shed abroad in their hearts was not only guiding them into all truth, but was quickening, or giving life to, their mortal bodies. We must never overlook that function of the Holy Spirit. He guides our minds into the truth; but He also gives life to our mortal bodies in order that we may live the truth before others.
Health is a part of holiness. God has not given to every man a robust physique, but His promise is, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be." It is possible to be sound in theology and yet be unsound in physical living. However, if the Spirit of God is leading, He will lead one into sound, healthful living.
Our health message is a vital part of our whole evangelistic program. In Matthew 8:16, 17 we have a very challenging thought : "When the even was come, they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils : and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick : that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses." When Christ became the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world, He not only bore our sins, He also took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. All sickness is the result of original sin. To recognize Jesus as our sin bearer is the very heart of the gospel, and yet the Scripture says He bore our sicknesses as well as our sins. The lesser is included in the greater.
Now, just as it is incumbent upon the gospel teacher to instruct his converts thoroughly in the nature of sin and the way of escape from the consequences of violation of the moral law, so he must also instruct them in healthful living in order that they may escape the consequences of violation of physical law. Having lived in sin without God and without hope, the Christian now learns to live in the grace of God, walking in the steps of his Master. Just as it is important for him to turn from worldly amusements as an evidence of sanctification, so is it essential that he eschew worldly habits of eating and drinking. The one who saves us from sin by His grace, lives and longs to sanctify us wholly—body, soul, and spirit—that we may be "preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord," or as the Revised Version says, "at the coming of our Lord." When our Saviour comes, He will find a people who are blameless in spirit, soul, and body. They reach that standard by the Spirit of God, who dwells in them, for it is the Spirit that sanctifies the life.
Yes, the gospel of health is not something added to the message of the everlasting gospel it is indeed part of it. How often we have used the text in the epistle of John, "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." 3 John 2. He is not talking here merely about soul health, but clearly about bodily health as well, for the same Spirit that sanctifies the soul, quickens the mortal body.
God declared through Moses, "Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments : which if a man do, he shall live in them." Lev. 18:5. The abundant life will reveal itself in all that we do. A happy people will be a holy people, and a holy people will be a healthy people. We are not called to fanaticism ; we are called to holiness. Preaching the "gospel of the kingdom" in all its fullness means teaching the gospel of health, for we read in Matthew 4:23 that "Jesus went about, . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people." As He preached the gospel of the kingdom, He made inroads into the devil's domain. The kingdom of light was challenging the kingdom of darkness. No wonder the twenty-fifth verse says, "There followed Him great multitudes of people." The multitudes always follow when the fullness of His gospel is preached.
He called Israel as an individual nation and made some very real promises to them concerning their health. Now, however, the gospel is going to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. He is gathering the true Israel of the Lord from all the corners of the earth. But as they are gathered, He is sanctifying them by His Spirit. When He was leading His ancient people out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, He said, "If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians : for I am the Lord that healeth thee."
This same promise is applicable to the Israel of God today, who, having left Egypt, are on their way to the heavenly Canaan. But like every other promise, it is on condition that we diligently hearken to the Lord and give ear to His commandments If we will, then He promises to make us free from the Egyptian diseases, for "I am the Lord that healeth thee." Rotherham's translation says, "I am the Lord, thy Physician."
The instruction that God gave to Israel through Moses is, in many respects, a masterpiece revealing His concern for minute details of physical life. He who designed the wonderful mechanism of the human body is eager that through observance of natural laws we preserve our health, in order that we may indeed be the temples of the Holy Spirit. God's abhorrence of the "strange fire" offered by Nadab and Abihu in the sanctuary in the wilderness, that brought such swift judgment on those careless priests, is a symbol of His concern lest we, through carelessness or indifference, be found offering "strange fire" within these body temples of ours. Those who, through wrong habits of living, are found eating swine's flesh and like abominations in the last days, will be consumed when the Lord comes to judge the nations.
Let it be our earnest concern to make ready a people prepared for the Lord—prepared in body, soul, and spirit. For "when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." The everlasting gospel that goes to all the world is molding men into the likeness of Him who bore both our sins and our sicknesses. To restore in man the image of Him who created him is the purpose of the everlasting gospel. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," declares the great apostle ; "for it is the power. of God unto salvation." Yes, He lives to make effectual in us by His Spirit what He wrought out on Calvary for us by His sacrifice.